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Subject of cat-killing film arrested at protest

By Emanuella Grinberg
Court TV

(COURT TV) -- As more than 100 animal-rights activists converged on the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival Tuesday to protest a documentary about the torture and murder of a cat, the man who sparked their outrage not only showed up at the rally, but was arrested.

Convicted cat killer Jesse Power emerged from behind the crowd of reportedly peaceful protesters in front of a downtown Toronto theater minutes before the premiere of "Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat."

"We couldn't believe our eyes. He knows how we feel about him, but still he came right up in our faces as if to provoke us," said Suzanne Lahaie, co-founder of Freedom for Animals, the group that organized the protest. "It was so nervy of him, but we kept our cool. The police thanked us later."

Lahaie said Power exchanged a few words with protesters before Toronto police led him into the theater. When they brought him back out, he was in handcuffs.

Power was arrested for breach of peace and released two hours later, after the film's conclusion. Power is currently facing unrelated theft charges.

The former art student is one of three subjects at the center of Canadian director Zev Asher's film examining one of Canada's most infamous animal-cruelty cases.

In 2001, Power and two friends picked up a stray cat -- posthumously named Kensington by Lahaie's group -- and videotaped themselves as they hung it from a noose and slit its throat, before beating, disemboweling and skinning it.

Power and his cohorts, Anthony Wennekers and Matt Kaczorowski, were sentenced to jail time after police found Kensington's eviscerated corpse and decapitated head in a mini refrigerator.

At his trial, Power's lawyers said he intended the video to be an art project showing the hypocrisy of society for allowing the killing of some animals for meat, but not others.

Asher's film does not show footage from the 17-minute clip, but rather focuses on the ensuing public outrage surrounding the incident. Nonetheless, the announcement of the film's inclusion in this year's festival prompted numerous e-mails, phone calls and even one death threat from protesters calling for it to be dropped from the 329-film lineup.

Amid the fury ignited over the documentary, Noah Cowan, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival, defended the film's screening against accusations that the film glorifies its subjects.

"People who have viewed the film -- and that includes several Toronto journalists and our curators -- indicate that it certainly does not allow room to sympathize with the actions of the convicted criminals portrayed in the documentary and shows them to be morally bankrupt," Cowan said in a statement posted on the festival's Web site.

"The rights of Toronto audiences to engage in meaningful discussion about the issues of the day are inviolable. Film festivals exist, in part, to generate intelligent, reasoned discussion, not to stifle it," he said.

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